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Why do Automatic Sprinkler Systems Fail?

Updated: Jun 22

There are many factors to consider when your automatic sprinkler fails. The most common reason is the age of the system.

San Antonio Sprinkler System Installation Services. Smart Irrigation System Design and Professional Installation. | Smart Irrigation Systems, LLC | San Antonio, TC
San Antonio Sprinkler System Repair & Installation Services

Automatic lawn sprinkler systems play a crucial role in maintaining healthy and vibrant lawns. These systems are designed to efficiently distribute water to the grass, ensuring adequate hydration and optimal growth. However, like any mechanical system, automatic lawn sprinklers can experience failures that may result in inefficient watering or even complete system breakdown. In this article, we will explore the common reasons why automatic lawn sprinkler systems fail and discuss ways to address these issues effectively.

Insufficient Water Pressure

One of the primary reasons for the failure of automatic lawn sprinkler systems is insufficient water pressure. If the water pressure from the main supply is too low, the sprinkler heads may not be able to distribute water evenly across the lawn. This can lead to dry patches and uneven growth. Additionally, low water pressure can cause the sprinkler heads to clog more easily, affecting their performance and coverage.

To address this issue, it is essential to ensure that the lawn sprinkler system is designed and installed with consideration for the available water pressure. If the water pressure is consistently low, it may be necessary to install a booster pump or adjust the system's layout to optimize water distribution.

Clogged Sprinkler Heads

Over time, debris, dirt, and sediment can accumulate in the sprinkler heads, causing them to become clogged. Clogged sprinkler heads result in uneven water distribution or, in some cases, complete blockage, rendering the affected area of the lawn dry and undernourished. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the sprinkler heads are essential to prevent clogging and ensure proper functioning.

Damaged or Misaligned Sprinkler Heads

Another common cause of automatic lawn sprinkler system failure is damaged or misaligned sprinkler heads. These components are exposed to the elements and can be vulnerable to damage from lawnmowers, foot traffic, or extreme weather conditions. A damaged sprinkler head may not rotate correctly or distribute water evenly, leading to dry or overwatered areas. Regular inspections should be conducted to identify any damaged or misaligned sprinkler heads and replace them promptly.

Controller Malfunctions

The controller, also known as the timer or control panel, is the brain of the automatic lawn sprinkler system. It regulates the system's operation, including the timing and duration of watering cycles. Malfunctions in the controller can disrupt the watering schedule, resulting in inadequate or excessive watering. Common causes of controller malfunctions include power surges, electrical issues, or programming errors.

Regularly checking and testing the controller is crucial to ensure its proper functioning. It is advisable to follow the manufacturer's instructions for programming and troubleshooting or seek professional assistance if needed.

Pipe Leaks or Damage

Leaks or damage in the underground pipes can significantly impact the performance of automatic lawn sprinkler systems. Water loss from pipe leaks can reduce the water pressure and affect the system's ability to reach all areas of the lawn adequately. Leaks can also lead to water wastage and increased water bills.

Periodic inspections of the pipes should be conducted to identify any signs of leaks or damage. Repairing or replacing damaged pipes should be done promptly to prevent further deterioration of the system.


Automatic lawn sprinkler systems can enhance the health and appearance of lawns when they are functioning correctly. Understanding the common causes of failure, such as insufficient water pressure, clogged or damaged sprinkler heads, controller malfunctions, and pipe leaks, allows homeowners to take proactive measures to address these issues. Regular maintenance, inspections, and prompt repairs are essential for maximizing the performance and longevity of automatic lawn sprinkler systems.


  1. What is the ideal water pressure for automatic lawn sprinkler systems?

  • The ideal water pressure for automatic lawn sprinkler systems typically ranges between 40 to 60 pounds per square inch (psi). However, it is recommended to consult the system's manufacturer or a professional installer for specific guidelines based on your system's design.

  1. How often should I clean the sprinkler heads?

  • Cleaning the sprinkler heads should be done at least once a year, preferably before the start of the watering season. However, if you notice any signs of clogging, such as uneven water distribution, it is advisable to clean the sprinkler heads promptly.

  1. Can I install an automatic lawn sprinkler system myself?

  • While it is possible to install a basic automatic lawn sprinkler system yourself, it is recommended to hire a professional for more complex installations or if you lack experience in irrigation systems. A professional installer can ensure proper design, installation, and optimization of the system for efficient watering.

  1. How can I detect underground pipe leaks in my lawn sprinkler system?

  • Signs of underground pipe leaks in a lawn sprinkler system may include unusually soggy or wet areas, reduced water pressure, or a sudden increase in water bills. If you suspect a pipe leak, it is advisable to consult a professional plumber or irrigation specialist to perform a thorough inspection and necessary repairs.

  1. Can I use rainwater or well water for my automatic lawn sprinkler system?

  • Yes, rainwater or well water can be used for automatic lawn sprinkler systems, provided it is filtered and treated if necessary. Using alternative water sources can help conserve potable water and reduce water bills. It is essential to consider the quality and availability of the alternative water source and consult local regulations or experts for guidance.

Most underground irrigation systems usually last between 15 to 20 years. In San Antonio, TX most residents will have to replace most of the sprinkler heads and nozzles by the 10 year mark of the sprinkler system. This is due to the fact that San Antonio has very hard water. This causes the sprinkler heads to become stuck or clogged. In addition to replacing sprinkler heads, irrigation systems in the northern parts of the San Antonio area, small towns like Helotes, Boerne, Grey Forest, Shavano Park, and the Stone Oak area, have very little topsoil and these areas are mostly bedrock. This means that rocks will get into the water lines and cause irrigation control valves to become stuck. Most sprinkler valves will get stuck shut, but sometimes they get stuck open. If this happens and the original design of the system did not have a Master Valve, you will have to shut the entire system off. Smart Irrigation Systems in San Antonio is available 7 days a week to perform any and all Sprinkler system repairs.


Other factors that cause sprinkler systems in San Antonio to fail.

When you have a Sprinkler PVC pipe break that causes a leak, most of the time it is because the ground has shifted or a root from a nearby tree has over-grown and caused the PVC sprinkler to bend beyond it's limit. This is very common in San Antonio, TX where new residential subdivisions are being built faster than the city can handle. All these new residential properties have new trees usually planted near irrigation lines which at first does not pose a threat to the sprinkler system. However, in 5-10 years that small tree will be over 25 feet tall and the roots will have grown as well. If you need a sprinkler head replaced , a valve replaced or need a leak repaired, Smart Irrigation Systems in San Antonio, TX provides prompt professional sprinkler system repair service.

Residential in-ground automatic sprinkler systems in San Antonio, TX


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